When our most recent cat was still alive, I noticed that she would come and sit with me whenever I felt sad. I don't know how she knew that about me, but if I started to feel blue, she would hop up next to me (she was never a lap cat) and purr to let me know that I wasn't alone in the world and she had my back.
She was a good cat.
I have definitely learned from her. When I see that my son is upset (legitimately upset, not when he is pretend upset to try and get his way), I try to sit with him. And since I can't purr (at least not very well), I try to talk to him. Talking has various levels of success.
The idea that we are all influenced by each other's moods is not new, but the degree to which children can be affected by their parent's mood is eye-opening. In the example above, I was just talking about sadness, but researchers discovered that Swedish teens received lower grades if they had a parent diagnosed with depression. How much lower? Well, we are not talking about a full letter grade, but enough to make a difference if your child is on the cusp of two grades.
It's important to realize that the research only pointed to an association, not a cause or a direct link. The researchers even admitted that because depression can be passed down genetically, they are not sure if the students are really affected by their parent's diagnosis or by their own depression.
All of this reminds me that depression is a social disease - so if one person in the family has it, then everyone is affected. We have to pay attention to each other's moods. And maybe even learn to purr better.
Do you worry about depression in your family? Tell me your concerns in the comments.